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Bride price

Bride price

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Affinity • Attachment • Bonding • Casual • Cohabitation • Compersion • Concubinage • Courtship • Divorce • Dower, dowry, and bride price Family • Friendship • Husband • Infatuation • Intimacy • Jealousy • Limerence • Love • Marriage • Monogamy • Nonmonogamy • Office romance • Partner Passion • Pederasty • Platonic love • Polyamory • Polyfidelity • Polygamy • Psychology of monogamy • Relationship abuse • Romance • Separation • Sexuality • Wedding • Widowhood • Wife This box: view talk edit

Bride price also known as bride wealth is an amount of money or property or wealth paid to the parents of a woman for the right to marry their daughter. (Compare dowry, which is paid to the groom, or used by the bride to help establish the new household, and dower, which is property settled on the bride herself by the groom at the time of marriage.) In the anthropological literature bride price has often been explained in market terms, as payment made in exchange for the bride's family's loss of her labor and fertility within her kin group. Compare this affinal practice with brideservice, which does not rely on a compensatory exchange idiom for ethnological interpretation.

The same culture may simultaneously practice both dowry and bride price.

Many cultures practiced bride price prior to any existing records.

History of the tradition

The Code of Hammurabi mentions bride price in various laws, as an established custom. It is not the paying of the bride price that is prescribed, but the regulation of various aspects:

  • a man who paid the bride price but looked for another bride would not get a refund, but he would if the father of the bride refused the match.
  • if a wife died without sons, her father was entitled to the return of her dowry, minus the value of the bride price.

The Hebrew Bible and Talmud mention the practice of paying a bride price to the father of a minor girl.

The practice of the bride price is found in the Bible, in the Old Testament. Exodus 22:15-16 says: "And if a man entice a virgin that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely pay a dowry for her to be his wife. If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins." JPS 1917 [1]

"If a man seduces a virgin who is not pledged to be married and sleeps with her, he must pay the bride-price, and she shall be his wife. If her father absolutely refuses to give her to him, he must still pay the bride-price for virgins." NIV

And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife. If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins. KJV

Deuteronomy 22:28-29 states similarly: "If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found; then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days." KJV

The Greeks practiced bride price in archaic times, and in the Odyssey, Telemachus complains of the suitors wooing his mother Penelope

They are too craven to go to the house of her father Icarius, that he may himself set the bride-price for his daughter, and bestow her on whom he will, even on him who finds favour in his sight.

and the custom lasts into classical times, by which time it had become a token sum of less value than the bride's dowry.

In Islamic marriage laws, Mahr is paid (or promised to be paid in case of divorce) by the groom to the bride (as opposed to the bride's father). It is mandatory.

The tradition of giving bride price is still practiced in many Asian countries although the amount changing hands is more a token amount to continue the traditional ritual then an actual price-tag attached to the bride-to-be for marriage.

In traditional Chinese culture, an auspicious date is selected to Ti Qin (literally meaning "propose marriage"), where both families will meet to discuss the amount of the bride price demanded, among other things. A couple of weeks before the actual wedding, the ritual of Guo Da Li (literally meaning "performing the rites") takes place (on an auspicious date of course). The groom and a matchmaker will visit the bride's family bearing gifts like wedding cakes, sweetmeats and jewelry as well as the bride price. On the actual wedding day, the bride's family will return a portion of the bride price (sometimes in the form of dowry) as a goodwill gesture.

The practice of bride price also existed in India, where it was considered as a social evil and the subject of a movement to eradicate it in the early 20th Century. Unlike what happened in the case of dowry, this movement was largely successful, although it has been making a comeback in recent years due to an increasing shortage of women.

In parts of Africa the validity of a traditional marriage ceremony depends on the payment of a bride price, which can vary from a token amount to an exorbitant sum. Lobola is a similar tradition in southern Africa.

This practice contrasts sharply with the poorly understood nuptial arrangement known as brideservice, which is noted in other regions of the world, such as among Native Amazonian Peoples, like the Urarina of Peru.

The tradition in art

  • A famous Telugu play "Kanyasulkam" (Bride Price) satirised the practice and the brahminical notions that kept it alive. Though the practice no longer exists in India, the play, and the movie based on it, are still extremely popular in Andhra Pradesh.
  • A popular Mormon story, Johnny Lingo uses a bride price of a shocking amount in one of its most pivotal scenes.
  • A novel named "The Bride Price", by Buchi Emecheta.

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